Friday, February 17, 2006

Strike 3, y'er in!

For 2 years I must have driven all my mates at Binghamton University crazy, blabbering non-stop about Israel, Zionism, my green suit dreams and my ambition to make aliyah. Everyone saw it was the one thing that drove me, a passion that was getting stronger and stronger as events in Israel spiraled out of control with the 2nd intifadeh and the rise of anti-Israel activity on Binghamton's campus. I knew where I was going, I would do what parents did in 1983 and thousands did before them, and leave behind the comfort of home for the sake of my people & my dream. So on February 16th, 2003, I choked up as I hugged my parents. Although I'm sure it was difficult for them to see their eldest leave them, I know they were proud of me. The same passion and desires that took them away from their parents in Cape Town had infected me and was pulling me towards my real home. A day later, I awoke to see the shoreline of Tel Aviv as the plane made its descent to Ben Gurion.

3 year later ... Yup, 3 years have passed already since I left the good ole comfort of Scarsdale, New York. I've traveled throughout the country, walking on land that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob wondered on. I've tasted the delicious Negev sand while training to become a defender of my nation's right to exist. I've stood up silently to honor the 6,000,000 brothers and sisters that were brutally taken away from my nation while the world stood silent. I've stood silently to honor the 20,000+ Israelis who've died in our ongoing battle to find peace in the Middle East. I've laughed. I've cried. I've experienced the highs of Independence Day, the lows of losing friends. Tasted the cultures and foods of the plethora of nations represented here. I've been paid to take Jewish holidays off. I've learned some Russian, some Amharic (the langauge spoken by Ethiopians) and a few important phrases in Arabic. I've tasted love. I've gotten closer to my faith. But most importantly, I've lived. I've pursued my dream, and lived it to the best of my abilities while learning and trying constantly to better myself.

So 3 years have passed. The passion is still there. The love for my country (& her future) and my faith are as strong as ever. The roots I planted here as a 22 year old are slowly growing stronger. I'm extremely happy with how my dream is playing itself out - and as Mark Twain said, "Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." Onwards ...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Psalm 133:1

The events of this past week in Israel were incredibly difficult to handle. The non-stop photographs and videos of Jew on Jew violence in Amuna was excruciatingly difficult to watch. This was not like what happened in (G)Aza, where most of the settlements were evacuated peacefully with protestors and soldiers crying together. This was Jew on Jew violence, leaving 200 people injured with 2 in serious condition. I've read and heard both sides' stories and I don't care what each other blabbers on about, they are BOTH to blame. I mean what the hell are they thinking?!?!? The 'settlers', though I know most were not in fact residents of Judea and Sumaria, for resorting to some sick language (like throwing around the Nazi word freely) and violence (like throwing bricks on policemen). The cops for their extraordinary use of force, and the numbers of injured tell the story of that force. What is this country coming to? This is Israel? This is the country that I love so much? I shudder to think what will happen when the next settlement is evacuated ...

These kinds of events are littered throughout the history of the Jewish people, but it's become even more of a problem since the 1940s. Two pre-State events highlight these problems. The first is 'The Season', where the Haganah willingly disclosed information to the British about Etzel & Lechi (both more radical underground movements than the aforementioned Haganah) fighters. Many of these fighters the British caught would later be hung. How did the Etzel & Lechi react? Menachem Begin refused to retaliate. The propensity for 'brother on brother' crime was highlighted again during the Independence War, when the Altalena, an Etzel cargo ship filled with Holocaust survivors and weapons, was shot on and destroyed by Yitzchak Rabin's forces from the nearby beach (David Ben Gurion's direct orders). Although 16 Jews were killed, there was no retaliation from the Etzel. Menachem Begin, who refused to leave the burning vessel until all the injured had been evacuated, famously said, 'There will not be a war here between brothers.' Does it stop here? Sadly not. The treatment of the 850,000 Arab Jews, who arrived throughout the 1950s, was disgraceful and more recently, the obvious racism when handling our brothers from Ethiopia. The non-stop references to Yitzchak Rabin as a Nazi during the Oslo process was an embarrassment. The list can go on and on but the point is sadly clear. We are too prone to baseless hatred, to 'sina'at achim' (hatred of our brothers). It has to stop before it destroys us. Anwar Sadat quite nicely sums up the stupidity of my people in his autobiography, "How do you destroy Israel? Simple, leave them alone for 25 years and they'll take care of themselves."

Ask a Rabbi what the most important prayer in Judaism is and he should tell you it's the Shema, 'Hear O' Israel'. What's amazing about that prayer's introduction is that it's directed at a singular Israel even though it's talking to every Jew. Simple really, we are one nation, we are supposed to be united and not divided. The divisions in our society are at the worst they've been since the 1950s. I am sadly coming to the conclusion that while the 'nation' of Israel still lives, the country is slowly being lost - to corruption, to sina'at achim, to violence etc. I was discussing why Israel is so special with my dad's cousin a few weeks ago, and she made a very strange comment, 'You have to see this country during war.' Perplexed, I asked her why she would wish a war on Israel. She quickly replied, 'I didn't mean it like that, but to see the unity of our people, how everyone wants to help one another and work together, it's simply amazing.' Sad eh? Sad that war or death (Rav Kadouri's funeral this past week bought in 200,000 Jews - ultra orthodox, modern orthodox, non-religious, Sephardim, Ashkenazim - to mourn) has to unite us.

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers are together in unity"
Psalm 133:1

If only this psalm could become a day to day reality ...